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When KQED went on the air in 1954, it was one of a handful of stations in a new field referred to as the “educational TV movement.” Conceived initially as a teaching tool, the station quickly broadened its scope to include entertainment and public affairs programming. The young station made a name for itself by airing the famous 1958 Teller-Pauling debate on nuclear fallout as well as controversial inquiries into homosexuality, racial prejudice and communism.
KQED originated the idea of selling memberships, staging an annual auction and developing other fundraising methods that became widespread throughout the public television system.
During the 1968 San Francisco newspaper strike, KQED founded Newspaper of the Air, public television’s first daily news program. Ten years later, KQED, for the first time, broadcasts a full seven-day schedule with the addition of Saturday afternoon programming.
KQED Public Radio became the first station — commercial or noncommercial — to try an all-news format on FM. On August 12, 1987, the station changed format from a classical music station that also aired Morning Edition and All Things Considered to an all news and information station. Two years later, KQED Public Radio becomes an around-the-clock, in-depth news and public affairs broadcasting station on July 1. In 1993, it is the most-listened-to public radio station in the country.
In January 1995, KQED publicly launched its website featuring program listings, press releases and content from San Francisco Focus magazine. And five years later, KQED-TV enters the digital age by broadcasting a high definition signal and soon launched five new digital channels: KQED HD, KQED Encore, KQED World, KQED Life and KQED Kids.
In 2011, KQED Public Radio becomes not only the most-listened-to public radio station in the nation, but the most-listened-to radio station in the Bay Area. KQED Public Television defies the national curve by increasing viewership, which often places it as the most-watched public television station in America. Usage of KQED's online and mobile services has more than tripled in the past 18 months -- and that was before the launch of the KQED iPhone app. With the development of public media's first radio Pledge Free Stream and the use of social media with thousands of friends and subscribers on Facebook, Twitter and Interactive blogs, KQED's reach continues to expand. That April, KQED rolls out an alternative to the classic pledge drive that April. The Pledge-Free Stream was the first time any public radio station offered members the option of listening on their computers or smartphones without pledge-break interruptions.
In December 2012, KQED entered into an innovative partnership with the Knight Foundation to create Matter Ventures, a startup accelerator and early-stage venture capital fund that supports and invests in media entrepreneurs working to create a more informed, connected and empowered society.
By 2014, KQED Public Television stations are often the nation’s most watched public television stations in prime time, and KQED Public Radio is the most-listened-to public radio station in the nation. Additionally, KQED’s social media has more than 1 million fans across all channels.